By Deena Douara
You can take the man out of Brazil but you can’t take the Brazil business ties out of the man.
Marcelo Andrade of Lucalex says the two countries share a complementary relationship: In Brazil, setting up a business is difficult due to laborious regulations and hefty fees, and producing a high-quality product is challenging, but it’s fairly easy to compete; In Canada, “it’s the polar opposite.” Setting up is simple and experts plentiful, but that makes it difficult to differentiate.
“You get all the resources you need to incorporate; Within 24 hours you can issue an invoice,” he says, as compared to the 17 procedures and 90-120 days it takes to set up in Brazil.
Lucalex helps bring Brazilian companies to Ontario, helping them access the local market and to navigate the system taking into account regulatory differences, cultural differences (e.g. how deadlines are interpreted) and marketing differences (e.g. emphasis on reputation versus targeted customization), so that they can focus on growing and enhancing their business.
Andrade says Toronto is great for companies.
“It’s the best place in the world. Especially if you’re born elsewhere you can’t imagine any place in the world where it’s so welcoming, you feel respected and the values are so good,” he says.
“It’s a fantastic place to do business and to live.”
He and his wife immigrated here because it would provide the “prosperity and safety” they sought, while allowing them to retain their culture.
“You don’t want your kids to be afraid of the food you cook,” he jokes while praising Canada’s approach to multiculturalism.
Still, he says the move does not make sense for every company. He takes cross-sector clients who move for personal reasons or have strategic reasons to do so, such as businesses dealing with wealth management, advanced manufacturing, green energy, and IT.
There was a time that Andrade’s own aspirations were limited to the Ford plant near home, an hour and a half outside of São Paulo. But even in school his interests were global. As a youth, pre-Internet days, he’ll remind you, he corresponded with pen pals from Germany and France, and wrote to the embassies of Canada, Denmark, and Australia to receive info packages, dreaming of what life in a developed country would be like. Sitcoms showing kids riding their bikes in American suburbia seemed “so cool” when contrasted with the high walls around his own neighbourhood.
His goal, then, was to work for a multinational company. To open any and all doors, he attended Brazil’s elite Instituto Tecnologico de Aeronautica before working in Brazil and eventually, Canada.
Commercial banking exposed Andrade to entrepreneurs, which he “absolutely loved.”
Impressed with their “gutsy” choices and how quick they were able to maneuver, Andrade says he “started to realize I wanted to be on other side of the table one day.” Today, those former clients are some of his biggest supporters.
After years of waiting for the right moment, he decided to devote himself to his own brand fulltime in 2012, naming the business after his sons Lucas and Alexander. He says they don’t need to follow in dad’s footsteps but he believes that in today’s economy, entrepreneurship is increasingly a wise choice. While it is viewed as high-risk, Andrade has a counter-argument.
“I learned and saw many times that things inside large companies are very far from certain. If you are going to live with uncertainty you may as well do it for your own benefit.”
Despite his breadth of experience, Andrade explains that Enterprise Toronto was still able to offer valuable services, including helping him to swiftly and cheaply incorporate.
“Here’s the challenge: when you’re always working in large companies, you don’t necessarily have the best antibodies to survive on your own outside a large body. I needed help to create a viable business.”
“They have the perfect tools to add value,” he says, including instruction on sales and marketing and the business model canvas.
“I was never afraid I wouldn’t know how to operate a business. The crucial thing is to sell…. You eat what you kill.”